Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bonus Post for the Day: Tagged!

String Bean has tagged me with a sock meme, and though you guys know I am a pretty lame sock knitter, I shall try to play!

1. What's your favorite sock yarn? (please note that the word 'yarn' is singular. Just pick one. I know it's hard.)

I guess I'll go with Lorna's Laces. They're just so soft and a little sproingy. My experience here is limited, understand.

2. What's your favorite type and brand of sock needle?

Clover bamboo dpns. I am afraid of knitting socks on either one or two circs, and I hate metal needles. Someday, I will conquer the fear of circs for socks, but metal needles hurt my hands.

3. Do you knit your socks toe up, cuff down, or sideways?

I've only done cuff down, but want to try toe up next time, whenever "next time" shall be.

4. Do you knit both socks at once or just one at a time?

One at a time.

5. What's your favorite toe and why?

There's more than one kind of toe? Hee hee. Nah, I know there's more than one, but I just do the sort of basic one. Now that I read there's a short-row toe, I have to try that!

6. Favorite heel?

I've only ever done heel flap, but I want to try short row "next time" (see #3).

7. Do you prefer plain or patterned socks?

I've only done a couple of pairs. I loved the patterned socks with Lorna's Laces, but I love the plain socks I made with Sunshine Yarns Gryffindor stripe yarn. So, to make a long story less long, it depends.

8. Who do you knit the most socks for?

It's 50-50 right now, between me and my husband, but my next pair will be for me.

9. Do you darn your socks? If not, what do you do with them?

I darn them (or worse!) when I drop a stitch or break a needle. Oh wait, I see what you mean! I haven't had to yet. Probably will when I need to.

10. Do you only wear handknit socks?

No, I have my one handknit pair, and everything else is from the store. Obviously, I need to knit more socks! I don't even have handknit slippers right now (I covet my husband's Fuzzy Feet).

Bonus question: What pattern, if any, is your basic "I-just-need-a-pair-of-socks" sock pattern based on? Do you keep it written down or memorized?

I guess the Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns socks. That's what I used to make the Gryffindor socks (more or less) and I am not a good enough sock knitter to have it memorized!

I tag Tim and KnitPastis. Haha, just kidding Tim!

By the way, since I forgot in my last post, Happy Halloween and/or Samhain to everyone!

'Tis The Season

(By the way, scroll down for ACTUAL KNITTING CONTENT. No, I'm not kidding. Close your mouth or you'll catch flies.)

Snuggle season, that is! Geronimo and Mirando are snuggling at almost every nap now:

When we first moved in, the guys mostly stayed near us in the house, but they now feel at home and have established their favorite spots in the house. One of them is on the blue blanket on the guest bed. And it's cold enough that they're napping together. So cute. They tend to sleep at night on the bed with us, which is very sweet.

Yarnthrower, I tend to call anyone older than me Mr. or Ms. at first. My parents had drilled that into me, and it's stuck. Usually the person quickly tells me to call them by a first name, but it's a nice courtesy, even if it's old-fashioned. It sounds like a good idea to model that for your kids! And thank you for the compliment :)

Thank you for Crock Pot suggestions! Beth, it didn't even occur to me to assemble the night before. Duh. I shall try that soon. Rachel, doesn't HP7 make so much more sense now? I love that JKR didn't make it really obvious, but knowing it really enhances the book, in my opinion.

Knitting: I have been knitting! Not a ton, but see for yourself:

It's Tussie Mussie! I decided to go with single strand on size 5 needles, and I like it so far. I thought, what the hey, I'll do the cute nosegay pattern until I saw "make bobble" in the chart. Ugh. Scratch that. So I'm knitting it without the pattern and also knitting it in stockinette instead of reverse stockinette. I'm calling it the "No Tuss, No Muss" Tussie Mussie. Tee hee hee. (You have to imagine that as one of the chuckles Marge Simpson does when she's laughing at one of her own bad puns.) I'm excited about a new sweater for myself. And excited to post knitting content, too. I'm hoping it becomes a habit, but you never know.

Reading: Just mystery re-reading. Gearing up for Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which I expect to either love or hate, as with most post-modern novels.

Writing: I have a writing workshop at Emory this Saturday on rewriting, so I'm really excited about that.

Cooking: I made Pasta with Lemon, Beans, and Greens again. It is so good. I also made Pasta Geronimo (recipe at left). I'm making Tuscan Chickpea Soup (another Cooking Light recipe) tonight--a late start means I'll do this in the stock pot-- and possibly Rosemary Focaccia (surprisingly enough, this was a huge seller at our bake sale, so I didn't get to eat any of the 8 loaves I made last weekend). Also on the agenda are Pinto Bean Burgers, a Cooking Light recipe, which sound good, though I NEVER make my own veggie burgers, so I hope they're worth the effort.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rain, Rain, Don't Go Away!

We've had three days of rain, which, given our drought, is fantastic news. It was gloomy, and we got rained on making our trek to the store, but we were happy about it. And what better way to enjoy the rain than with a cup of tea and some cookies:

String Bean very kindly returned the tupperware I had sent, with the improvement of stuffing them full of delicious apple cookies. Yum. You can't eat just one of these, seriously. Thank you! Thank you! (If you're curious about the china, it's a traditional Czech pattern. My mother-in-law brought these tea things back for me from a trip to Prague. They make tea taste much better.)

Wow! The response about Miss Allison was really interesting to read! Yarnthrower, I didn't mean people who have their kids call adults Miss FirstName were scary! The title referred to my being on a committee, having a crock pot, etc., and the name discussion was just a very long tangent. I had never come across that naming convention for kids before (except, as others noted, in the context of preschool teachers or dance instructors), and it was really cool to read everyone's reactions. I totally see the reasoning (easier pronunciation than last names, add a level of respect for adults)...I think I just will hate being called Miss Allison (though I was, when teaching "ballet" to 4-year-olds ages ago). Rachel, isn't it funny that I had enough imagination to HAVE an imaginary friend, but not enough to come up with a fun name for her? I also had a beloved pillow named--wait for it--Pillow, and a cherished bear named Brown Bear. Guess what color he was? Well, I shall be Miss Allison and my husband Mr. Matt (or, I suppose, Dr. Matt, which would be hilarious).

Knitting: StringBean, I am a gauge spaz, so I double-checked, and I did the average over four inches, and got 5.5. It might be the way I'm stretching stuff in the photo. Also, while I was trying to take the pictures, Lilah was climbing up my leg, which was distracting. I have decided to use the lighter fabric and use this as a layering piece. If it's doubled, I think it'll be too warm for all but a couple weeks out of the year here! I had to miss my alumni knitting group :( so I haven't found much knitting time, but my cheery red yarn is right on the coffee table where I can see it!

Reading: Just re-reading beloved mystery novels. I will be traveling soon, and I think I'll re-read the whole Harry Potter series again, both to reflect back after reading The End, and in light of the news about Dumbledore.

Writing: I occasionally jot down an idea, but I have some major reconstruction to do, which is going to take time that I just don't have. I am taking a creative writing workshop for alumni at Emory on rewriting, which I'm excited about.

Cooking: I made Black Bean Chili and Jalepeno Cornbread from past Cooking Light recipes, both lovely. It's finally getting cold, so it was perfect. I am having some trouble with Crock Potting, as by the time I get Lilah down for a nap, it's usually cutting it too close to have the Crock Pot finish cooking dinner by 6 or 7. If I want to cook anything on Low, I have to get all the ingredients prepped and in there by 8:00 am, which, hahahah!, will totally not happen. Even on High, it has to get in there by noon. Maybe I need to chop stuff the night before and have it ready to chuck in while I'm making breakfast or something. What else? I did make Red Beans and Rice, and wasn't that thrilled, mostly with the sausage-like vegetarian product I used. It was okay, but not great. I'm not really a "fake meat" kind of vegetarian, so I would have been happier leaving it out and letting Matt brown some real sausage to put in his serving.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Now, THAT'S scary!

Halloween is coming, and we have our very own, all-natural decoration up at our house. I'm not talking about the pumpkins and gourds and Indian corn we put up every year, but a big spider who created a masterpiece of a web on our front porch. It's amazing.

Things that are really scary, though:
1. I am on a committee.
2. I am in charge of a bake sale for that committee.
3. I bought a Crock Pot.

Hahaha! Not that I have ever been cool (my junior high was exactly like the film Mean Girls, and I was NOT on the popular team), but this soccer mom type stuff is kind of scary. Oh, I learned something interesting at my last committee meeting (at least it's not the most organized committee, and our meetings are pretty fun). I forget that we're in the South most of the time. A few of our neighbors have actual Southern accents, but it's not that common, and Atlanta in general has a lot of transplants from other states and other countries. But I learned from another Yankee parent that we're expected to teach our kids to call our friends Miss FirstName (so I'd be Miss Allison). That's the polite thing to do. Which is really bizarre. And I forgot to ask this, but my guess is that in the relatively chauvinistic South, the same probably doesn't go for men. I'll have to confirm this, but I can't imagine a Southern child calling my husband Mr. Matt. Not that I can imagine this Miss Allison nonsense, either. I was raised to call adults Mr. or Ms. LastName, and if they wanted to be called something else, to go with that, so the Miss FirstName thing is just strange. Plus, Miss Allison was the name of my imaginary friend as a small child. Weird. TurtleGirl, are you a native Southerner? I was wondering if the same was true where you grew up.

The Crock Pot is kind of funny, since I don't cook meat. But I figure I can chuck soup or stew ingredients in there in the morning and have it be ready for dinner. It also made excellent vegetable broth.

Thank you so much for your kind comments on my little diary. It was nice to do a bit of writing, even if it was short and not my usual thing. It's also nice to hear from other non-domestic goddesses :) I can keep the place clean enough that the Health Department *probably* won't show up, but I have no idea what those people with neat-as-a-pin houses do to keep them that way. My hope is that they hire someone.

Knitting: I finished "swatching" for Tussie Mussie. I put that in quotation marks because I can never stand to do the whole 4x4 square thing. It takes too long. So I did swatchlets, where I cast on about enough for 4 inches and knit until I couldn't stand it anymore (1-2 inches). And I only did that because I was nowhere near gauge on the recommended needles (strange for me), and I wanted to make sure I liked the fabric I could get with gauge. I went ahead and washed the swatchlets and let them dry overnight, because I couldn't remember how the Rowanspun acted after washing. The size 6 needles ended up a little off, but the size 5 are spot on. Oddly, the size 6 with the yarn doubled are as well. Weird. How does that make mathematical sense? Anyway, I just have to decide whether I want the bulkier fabric, or a very light one. Take a look at the size 5 needles, single strand (also held up to the window so you can see the density):

And the bulkier fabric:

I'm afraid the bulkier will be too warm here. In Wisconsin, probably it'd be perfect, but I think I'll get more use out of a light sweater here. But I'm also a little afraid the light fabric will be too floppy and therefore unattractive. Thoughts?

Reading: I've been re-reading favorite mysteries lately. I haven't felt like being challenged, and I can pretend it's research for my own murder mystery. But really, it's like the mac 'n' cheese of literature for me.

Writing: I actually thought of a perfect plot twist for the murder mystery while baking for the upcoming bake sale. I jotted it down, but unsurprisingly, have not had time to go back and write it in.

Cooking: For the bake sale, I'm making sourdough loaves (or trying to--my first attempt did not rise at all, though it tasted like sourdough, which is weird because that means the bacteria the yeast produce were there, but the yeast were having a vacation day or something), baklava (recipe in sidebar link), brownies (recipe also there), and chocolate chip pumpkin muffins (recipe also there). I made Chickpea Gumbo by The Fat Free Vegan. I know the blog name doesn't sound like the most appetizing food blog, but she has great recipes. I must admit that I added a bit of fat back into the gumbo, in the form of 2 TBL of olive oil instead of 2 tsp. I'm making her Red Beans and Rice tonight. Oh! I forgot to mention I made my veggie broth last weekend. I was able to make an extra three quarts from what I usually make by employing the Crock Pot in addition to my two stock pots. I was very pleased with the results. The freezer is stocked! Just in time for it to get warm and humid here again. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Perfectionism Squared

I keep wanting to post about my Yarn Challenge, but I wanted to have swatch photos to show, and I wanted the lucky winner to have her yarn and other treats already. But at this point, I just have to announce the winner since Little Miss Lilah has not felt that I need to finish my swatching :)

The Winner Is...

String Bean for Tussie Mussie!

I was having trouble getting gauge with the 4Ply, which is a very skinny yarn (a technical term I learned from Knit the Knits (whom I hope will someday publish a glossary of technical knitting terms). On the recommended size 4, I was getting 26 stitches to 4 inches instead of 22. That's just as well, really, as I would have had to buy a couple more size 4 circs to do the sweater. So I'm trying size 5 needles, and my backup plan is to double the yarn and try size 5 or 6. I dimly recall some formula where if you double the yarn, you don't need double the yardage, just 1.3 or 1.4 or 1.7 of it? At 1.7, I would be really pushing the limits of the amount of 4Ply I have, but if it's less, I think I can do it. This yarn is always on eBay, anyway. I haven't decided about the nosegay pattern. I think it's cute, but my sanity may demand an unembellished sweater.

String Bean will receive some lovely yarn and something from my oven, hopefully by tomorrow, unless the Postal Service decides to lose it or something. I don't want to post exactly what, so it will be a surprise for her.

Thank you so much to everyone for your suggestions! And, thank you, Tim! Tim was the recipient of one of my Manly Hats (pattern at left) when he moved to the Arctic tundra. I mean, Canada.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Days of Our Lives

(The following is fictionalized autobiography. No Cheerios were harmed in the writing of this piece. If the style seems weird, go read Bridget Jones' Diary.)

Sunday: V. unhappy. House is disaster area. Need a better schedule to resolve chaos. Imagine! No more Cheerios underfoot. No more piles of whatever on the dining room table. No more wincing at the state of the bathroom mirrors. House will resemble Martha Stewart magazine spread.

Monday: laundry
Tuesday: bathrooms
Wednesday: dusting and sweeping
Thursday: vacuuming and mopping
Friday: general decluttering
Saturday: make up day
Sunday: off

There! Will have plenty of time for all housework. Am v. pleased with organizational skills.

Monday: Cheerios on floor: 11.5 (v. bad) Laundry complete! V. pleased. Am domestic goddess. Dreamily picture sparkling, gorgeous home, free from chaos, Cheerios, and clutter. Will plan dinner party to show off stunning home and goddessness.

Tuesday: Cheerios on floor: 18 (v. v. bad) Bathrooms cleaned: 1 (v. bad) Had to abandon master bathroom midway, shutting door to keep baby and cats from hazardous chemicals left on all surfaces until baby napped, whereupon wiped everything clean quickly without inhaling.. V. disappointed, but remain hopeful. Remember Sunday is available as make-up day. Am still domestic goddess, but must remember Martha Stewart has legions of servants to keep things sparkly. Must not be discouraged by more real-world situation. Realize have not plucked eyebrows in recent memory. Do so to avoid frighteniing dinner guests and overshadowing gorgeousness of house, Must add weekly beauty masque and home pedicure to schedule.

Wednesday: Cheerios on floor: 22 (v. bad, but improvement) Grocery shopping done! V. pleased, except forgot several things and will have to return tomorrow. Realize forgot to put grocery shopping on schedule. Must not be discouraged by minor setback. Will be amazing domestic goddess by next week, with exfoliated feet and clean floors.

Thursday: Cheerios on floor: 32 (v. horrifying) Grocery shopping done again! Total bathrooms cleaned: 2 (improvement) V. pleased. Making up for early week problems already. Rather discouraged that large tasks for Wed. and Thurs. not completed. Must stay focused and positive and remember the weekend is coming. Remember that becoming domestic goddess not easy. V. disturbed to find Cheerio in living room. Perhaps they are breeding? Resolve to look into Cheerio reproduction or migration.

Friday: Cheerios on floor: 22 (v. good) Total bathrooms cleaned: 2.5 (excellent) V. concerned has taken most of week to accomplish Tuesday task. Wikipedia and Martha Stewart website unhelpful on Cheerio breeding issue. Accused (unjustly) of mumbling, "Bleeping Martha Stewart."

Saturday: Cheerios on floor: 12 (v. encouraging) Dusting finished (not counting books in bookshelves)! Will clean floors after errand to mall to find pajamas that fit. V. pleased to have lost weight, but pajamas now resemble circus tent. Spend two hours installing larger carseat as baby has discovered how to extract and eat stuffing of small carseat. V. concerned about polyester consumption. Locate lovely, fitting pajamas in fourth store, only to realize have forgotten special credit card with bonuses. Return with no pajamas (v. bad, so disorganized) but with baby ingesting no polyester (v. good).

Sunday: Cheerios on floor: 0 (v. exciting! success!) While on floor during Cheerio eradication, notice oatmeal spot on curtain. Follow logical trajectory from high chair to find oatneal crusted on wall. Am not domestic goddess, but unpaid CSI technician. Perhaps can feed baby out on porch in future, then use garden hose for cleanup? Return to purchase non-tent-like pajamas with bonus credit card. V. pleased. Place baby in high chair and sweep floor while performing riveting singing/dancing act, to great applause. Am clearly v. talented. Perhaps will perform at dinner party. Go to Target to purchase plastic dropcloth to place under high chair. Wonderful, beloved, amazing husband has vacuumed during outing. Manage to finish floor cleaning before collapsing in exhaustion. Am domestic goddess at last! Not excited about starting over tomorrow, however...

Knitting: I will announce the winner of the contest as soon as I have swatch pictures to put up, later in the week. You guys are awesome! Fantastic ideas all around!

Reading: Wow, this is going to be a long one. It looks impressive, but most of these are below my grade level. I read the four Peggy Parish books in a couple of hours.

Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange: This was surprisingly enjoyable. Quite fluffy, but fun. It's really superfluous, since you can tell in Pride and Prejudice what Darcy was thinking most of the time, but if you're a P&P fan, this might be worth picking up. I zipped through it pretty quickly, and really liked it. There are some conversations with Bingley and comments on Caroline that are entertaining, and we see a bit more of his relationship with Georgiana. And of course, we find out what happened when Darcy went after the eloping couple. Grange has also written Mr. Knightley's Diary, which I will have to pick up!

Molly Moon, Micky Minus, and the Mind Machine by Georgia Byng: This is the fourth in the series about a plucky heroine who discovers she has amazing powers. These are very cute, over-the-top adventures, beginning with Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism.

Key to the Treasure, Pirate Island Adventure, Clues in the Woods, and The Haunted House by Peggy Parish: Four of the six Liza, Bill & Jed mysteries. I've gotten nostalgic about childhood books, and sometimes I have only a dim memory of a book I loved as a kid, without remembering the author, the plot, or the character names. This makes it hard to search for a book! For this one, all I remembered was that there was a "treasure key" or "key to treasure" or something in the title and it had codes in it. Pretty quickly found Key to the Treasure, and I had completely forgotten it was the first in a series. These are good natured adventure-mysteries that are neither too adventurous nor very mysterious. These are really cute, wholesome mysteries. There are no video games or television shows, and the kids play outside and volunteer to do the dinner dishes without being asked, but they're not disgustingly sweet. They carp at each other like real siblings. I wasn't sure if they would still appeal to kids, or if they would be too dated, but they were recently re-released, maybe because people like me who loved them as kids are now having children themselves.

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg by Gail Carson Levine: This was a fun fairy tale set in Never Land. Prilla, a new fairy, hasn't yet found her talent. Meanwhile, trouble is brewing for the Never fairies. There's not much suspense that Prilla's yet-unknown talent will play a key role in solving the trouble in Never Land, but the story is cute and the illustrations lovely.

Writing: None at all. Sigh. For Christmas, I want time to write. And a desk. That's all.

Cooking: I don't think I mentioned that I made sourdough starters, which is just as well really. I missed a day of feeding and the whole wheat one came over all moldy and the bread flour one smelled like one of Lilah's more horrifying diapers. I wasn't that committed, I guess, as I hadn't named them. I found a different technique I may try. It may have been the awful humidity around here lately, or it might be entirely my fault. At any rate, I was bummed, as I was looking forward to some sourdough bread.

I made Pad Thai. Sort of. Let's call it, Not Very Authentic But Fairly Tasty Pad Thai from Allison's House of Vaguely Ethnic Cuisine. I started out with the intention of making authentic Pad Thai by the delightful Pim, and shopping, equipment, and time issues foiled my plan. I have no doubt whatsoever that Pim's method is better than the makeshift method and ingredients I used. But I had already had two bean sprout purchases go bad while I tried to find the time and energy to make Pad Thai, and I decided to just do what I could and see how it turned out. The changes I ended up making were legion: 1. I couldn't find Light Soy Sauce (not low-sodium, but "thin" soy sauce" so I used 1/3 cup of regular. 2. I actually found tamarind, but when I opened the box, instead of a nice, soakable block, I found a bunch of pod things. When I broke them open, there was sticky stuff that I had no idea what to do with, so I gave up on that and used 1/2 cup lime juice. 3. I used 1/3 cup turbinado sugar instead of palm sugar. 4. I couldn't find garlic chives and got regular. 5. I didn't have a wok, so I used my chef's pan. 6. I needed to cook it all at once, so I stir-fried tofu and garlic, removed it to a bowl, cooked eggs and added them to the tofu, then stir-fried 14 oz. of dried rice noodle (soaked in boiling water), added sauce and beansprouts, stirred in tofu and egg, then added chives. Matt and I agreed it wasn't restaurant quality, but it was actually pretty good. Someday, I'll find an Asian market and try Pim's method.

I made extremely healthy muffins for a neighbor who can't have dairy and is chemically sensitive. She looked after our cats while we were in Michigan, and it seemed like a good thank you idea. I actually liked them quite a bit. They do taste 'healthy' and Matt didn't even want to try them (he said diplomatically that he wouldn't appreciate them the way I would) as he's not fond of whole wheat baked goods (except bread). In case you feel you're not getting enough fiber in your diet, here's the recipe for a dozen muffins. They freeze well, then you can defrost one in the morning for breakfast.

Apple muffins (chemically sensitive version)
12 muffins
Note: Next time, I will nix the topping, add two teaspoons of cinnamon to the batter, and sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar. I haven't tested it this way yet, though.

1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
3/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 cups apples, peeled and chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Combine all dry ingredients and set aside. In a large bowl, mix oil, applesauce, and honey. Blend in vanilla and egg. Gradually mix in dry ingredients until well-blended. Stir in nuts and apples. Pour into 12 muffin cups sprayed with canola oil. Spread topping over batter. Bake at 325 for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


2 Tbl canola oil
2 Tbl whole wheat flour
2 Tbl turbinado (raw) sugar
1 Tbl cinnamon

Mix all topping ingredients.